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IMF as "judge and jury"

Fringe protesters at the IMF/World Bank annual meetings are nothing new. But once they could be easily dismissed as Utopians or religious nutters not worth taking seriously. No longer.

Coalition Jubilee 2000, the UK umbrella organization that is calling for a one-off forgiveness of all unpayable debts of the world's poorest countries, has changed all that. Coalition Jubilee 2000 is well-organized, respectable and enjoys the support of senior politicians.

Fresh from victories at the G8 meeting in Cologne in June - when Bono, lead singer of Irish rock band U2, and Thom Yorke, lead singer from Radiohead, joined in the protest - the group is planning to form a human chain around the World Bank headquarters. It also hopes to beat the world record for most signatures on a petition but is currently five million short.

The group is fighting for an independent body to assess the level of debt that creditors should pay. "One problem of the existing system is that the IMF acts as the providers, judge and jury," says Adrian Lovett, deputy director for the Jubilee 2000 Coalition. The independent panel "could be the United Nations or a new body of some sort, it should be small and unbureaucratic," says Lovett.